Anyone who knows me knows that I love historical fiction. I am a seeker of truth, and I also believe that the heroic deeds of those who have gone before can inspire us to live our lives with higher purpose. I love understanding the historical context of events from the past and knowing more about the people involved. But I’m concerned about historical pieces that clearly can only serve to inflame and anger the readers or watchers (if the historical work is a film or television program).
For instance, there is a new historical film regarding events in Ireland during one of the famines. This is a dark time in Ireland’s past, and rehashing it (as evidenced by the preview of the film) can only serve to create discord between the viewer and those that the film portrays as the “evil enemy.”
Don’t we have enough things to be angry about today without having to dredge up events from the past to be angry about? Are the filmmakers and authors/writers worried that we might not be angry enough and therefore they have to create a reason for anger that wasn’t there before? What’s the end game? Isn’t it time to focus on healing rather than keeping the wounds raw and fresh and festering?
Historical works like this only serve to paint a target on a particular group of people and tell the world that hatred toward that group of people is the right response. All that these works do is create anger and hatred in subsequent generations over events that are no longer relevant to today’s society and should not become the basis for our present day emotional state.
I have always enjoyed watching the movies Braveheart and The Patriot, but I’m not blind to what their messages are. Braveheart’s message is: “All Scots are Saints, and the English are the Devil.” The Patriot’s message is: “All American Colonial Patriots are Saints, and the English are the Devil.” Yes, many of the events portrayed in these films did happen, but when presented so heavy-handedly, these films stop being about entertainment and presenting historical facts, and start being about manipulating the emotions of the audience to rub raw old wounds that should have long been healed.
In my younger days, I championed a number of historical causes. I tried to inflame the passions of others to address the wrongs committed against my ancestors. But over time, I learned that change does not come from inflamed passions. It comes from calm, polite, and honest conversations between differing parties to find common ground, to educate on facts and truths in a non-threatening manner, and to demonstrate a willingness to work together and impart messages to others that present historical facts in a way that enlightens without emotional polarization.
There have been atrocities committed in the past. I’m not blind to the fact, nor do I wish to pretend that they never happened or attempt to cover them up or justify them. But trying to inflame the rage of people to keep them angry about these events serves no useful purpose. It keeps people from being able to interact calmly, and in a world providing more than enough reasons to hate our fellow man for their beliefs, their faith, their ethnicity, their political leanings, etc., why add fuel to the fire by adding historical wrongs to the justifications being used to continue hating? Understanding history so that past mistakes are not repeated is vital to our future, but history cannot be understood from an enraged, inflamed emotional state. It can only be understood from a calm and rational state.
The truth about the past needs to be promoted, but not in a way that stirs emotions against others. Past wrongs committed toward our ancestors need to remain in the past where they belong. It’s time to let the old wounds heal so we can focus on healing the newer ones. There can be no progress for mankind unless we learn to heal, learn to stop hating, and learn to work together to redress the wrongs that have been committed toward each of us here today.